Street Art and the Baroque have not always been the closest of partners, be it due to their wildly different demographics, styles or time periods, however teacher turned curator Ingrid Beazley has aimed to change that in a three year long project which began when she collaborated with Stik, an artist who requires no introduction, and asked him to create his own reinterpretations of the old masters’ pieces. Three years and sixteen further collaborating artists down the line, today Beazley is the figurehead of a project that even she states is “more successful than I ever imagined.”
Her attempts to integrate two very different worlds was inspired by what she called “a marked lack of younger, more diverse people coming to see the permanent collection” however it was not footfall alone, but also the attitudes of frequent visitors that she sought to change. “My main aim was to build respect for both types of art. There is a lot of prejudice in the art world, and the people who like and respect ‘old’ art are often quite sniffy and ignorant about street art, and those who admire today’s street artists are often not attracted to the 17th and 18th century artists represented in the Dulwich Picture Gallery. If people have experienced top quality art from any century, they generally come to respect it.”
The geographical distance between the original baroque paintings and their contemporary large scale counterparts was something that was initially a challenge, some struggling to make the links between one piece and another without being able to directly compare. Hence Beazley’s earlier book “Street Art, Fine Art” was born. For this first book a series of blank cover versions were created which then the contributing artists were asked to paint. These original covers were so individually strong that they were then assembled into the recently released sequel “Street Art, Book Art”, printed into limited editions of 100 for each artists design.
The process of each artist remastering familiar pieces was something Beazley found fascinating, “I loved seeing how the artists chose a painting to suit their subject matter, ROA an animal in a Dutch landscape, Thierry Noir a group of half-length people, Phlegm a man from a crowd playing a trumpet, Stik a double full length portrait, this influenced their compositions, but maintained their distinctive styles.” She was, however, careful not to become precious about the original baroque pieces she knew so well, trying to avoid having set ideals for how each piece could be executed; “Sometimes the artists had their own agenda, and painting what they wanted, and then linked it to a Dulwich Gallery painting, sometimes somewhat tenuously. But, these different approaches added to the interest of the project, I liked them.”
Are the Baroque and the urban contemporary so truly different after all? We asked Ingrid and her response drew an unexpected comparison; “Street artists need not only skill in representing their chosen subject, but also the ability to adapt their composition to the shape and characteristics of the wall. Since wall and ceiling painting went out of fashion over 200 years ago, painters have generally worked on rectangular canvases of manageable size. But think of Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling. He had to deal with all those lunettes, niches and triangular covings and paint the ceiling and the walls as unified whole. He adapted his composition to the characteristics of the building as skilled street artists do today.”
The selection of originally painted book covers was first on show for the book’s launch between the 27th June and the 5th July however some of the covers moved onwards to the C&C Gallery in Forest Hill where they can be seen from the 10th-19th of July, perhaps for the final time as many are now owned by private collectors, make sure to take a look.